DESPITE Africa being the poorest continent in the world with the larger part of its population facing inadequate access to goods and services, it has in the recent years transformed itself economically.
With average annual growth rates of around five per cent, Africa is increasingly seen as an important driver of the global economy.
As such, there are projections for innovation in technology and other industries, increased production and consumption and high levels of prosperity.
Further, efforts are being channeled to African countries to develop and adapt to changing boundary conditions as countries continue to industrialise with an aim to increase economic activities and create employment opportunities.
Therefore, promoting green growth and building a green economy is increasingly becoming an important topic across the continent because green growth is about ensuring human well-being undergoes rapid transformation.
Climate change experts on the other hand say the priority for Africa is to enhance livelihood security and increase economic prosperity.
Addressing existing and emerging development challenges without locking into pathways that deplete Africa's natural capital and leave economies and livelihood more vulnerable to climate change and other environmental, social and economic risks are other priorities.
At the same time, the African Development Bank (AfDB) pointed out that increasingly inter-connected and knowledge-based economies present new opportunities and avenues for development.
Pollution, waste, environmental degradation and climate change pose growing challenges. Furthermore, pollution growth, urbanisation, shifting consumption patterns and political economies are examples of trends that also need to be considered when aiming to improve food security, livelihood and economic prosperity.
AfDB Resident Representative Freddie Kwesiga said green growth offers a pathway towards achieving sustainable development.
There is clear recognition for green growth because it is essential and important for advancing Africa's development.
Dr Kwesiga said green growth was about the quality of growth that African countries want.
"Over the recent decade the African continent has transformed itself economically. Six of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. At the same time we are facing an increasingly complex and inter-connected world," Dr Kwesiga said.
Green growth offers opportunities but also challenges. These challenges include increasing pressure on Africa's natural resources, pollution and waste and global climate change.
Furthermore Africa's development needs to be considered in the context of pollution growth, urbanisation and shifting consumption pattern.
Dr Kwesiga pointed out that green growth was about being prepared, so African countries and people can benefit from the opportunities and cope and adapt with the challenges.
He said green growth should be well understood on how African countries can achieve growth targets and development objectives, while reducing adverse impacts on the environment thereby enhancing resource use efficiency and minimising waste and pollution as well as enhancing resilience of livelihoods.
"Green growth is an opportunity for Africa to lead by example and set the benchmark in the global stage.
While many developed countries have already depleted their forests, polluted their rivers, locked themselves into coal and oil-based power generation.
Africa is still in a position to leap-frog and innovate, making use of best available knowledge and technology and set new standards in sustainability which can inspire other countries around the world," Dr Kwesiga said.
On the other hand, the bank has prioritised green growth in its long-term strategy to support Africa's transformation in a stable, integrated and prosperous continent.
Improving the quality of growth for Africa is key to the AfDB which initially requires helping Africa achieve growth which includes leading to deep reductions in poverty and secondly.
By helping Africa transition to green growth it will protect livelihood, improve food security, promote sustainable use of natural resources and spur innovation, job creation and economic development.
Dr Kwesiga said AfDB bank is committed to help Africa transition to greener growth by increasing the capacity of African economies to reach their development objectives more efficiently by identifying development path-ways.
Doing so will reduce pressure on essential natural assets and that better manage environmental and socio-economic risks.
He said the key component of green growth is puuting in place mearures that can withstand shocks making efficient and sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable infrastructure.
The bank's package on inclusive and green growth agenda comprises infrastructure development, regional integration, private sector development, governance, accountability , skills and technology.
In addition, AfDB has a solid track record in supporting African countries in developing more sustainable, resilient and greener economies.
The bank has long supported projects and programmes in the areas of integrated water resources management, natural resource management, clean energy, sustainable agriculture among others.
Commenting on the green growth economy, Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Deputy Minister Danny Chingimbu pointed out that Zambia like many other African countries drives its economy by utilising its abundant natural resources and environment.
It is important to note that sustainable use of these resources will help Zambia become a middle income country.
Mr Chingimbu said the country had for a long time been dependent on copper mining as its key contributor to the economy, as a consequence, the country has been faced with numerous challenges of large scale mineral extraction.
This has been in the form of land degradation, habitat destruction, and water and air pollution.
"Thus, even though economic benefit has been derived from mining we are still grappling with environmental liabilities that have accrued over the years," he said.
In addition, the majority of Zambian rural households rely on wood as a cheaper source of energy whilst urban households use charcoal.
Mr Chingimbu said forest areas have also been cleared for agricultural production and this had contributed to the continued high rate of deforestation.
He said clearly, the country is experiencing deforestation rates of about 250,000 to 300,000 hectares per annum.
These examples highlight the close dependence the Zambian people have on their natural resources.
He pointed out that Zambia continues to use environmental impact assessment in an effort to incorporate environmental considerations in decision making for all major development projects.
Mr Chingimbu explained that even though environmental issues have been enshrined in the environmental policy and law it has limitations saying that its focus was at the project level.
In order to have a more holistic view on developments the Government repealed and replaced the environmental protection and pollution control Act of 1990.
Our recent Environmental Management Act of 2011 is more progressive in that it provides for strategic environmental assessment whose focus is beyond projects and address policies, plans and programmes.
Finland Ambassador to Zambia Pertti Anttinen said green growth would not take place in a vacuum saying inclusive green growth requires that citizen and companies make choices everyday to support it.
Green growth is therefore influenced by people's values and choices and Mr Anttinen said green growth entails respect for human rights and democratic principles, gender and social equality, good education and health of the people.
"In perfect world, the challenges of defining a new economic or green economy roadmap leadership leading to poverty eradication, to higher environmental protection, to sustainable and increased productivity, to green growth and decent jobs and to low carbon transition among other things," Mr Anttinen said.
It is therefore important that African countries promote green growth by addressing existing and emerging development challenges without locking into development pathways which will deplete Africa's natural capital.